5 tips for starting your own business
(BPT) - There’s no doubt the pandemic has hit small businesses hard. Even in its early weeks, February to April 2020, the number of active businesses plummeted by 22%, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. And unfortunately, the consequences of the early shutdowns impacted minority-owned businesses even harder, with Black-owned businesses seeing a 41% drop, Latinx businesses 32%, Asian businesses 26% and women-owned businesses 25%.
Does that bad news mean that now is the wrong time to consider starting a new business? Not necessarily. Opportunities exist for small businesses today, including support and funding for start-ups — and especially for minority business owners.
If you want to start a small business, here are steps to get you started.
1. Do your research
First, make sure you understand the current market for your business. This step is crucial to turn an idea into a full-fledged business plan.
Ask questions like:
Ask other business owners about their challenges and rewards to explore whether this is a good option for you. Use market analysis tools recommended by resources such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) to get to know the market for your business.
2. Write a business plan
No business can find funding, investors or partners without a solid business plan. Learning to write a comprehensive plan also forces you to fully think through every aspect of your proposed idea. The SBA is a great resource to research types of business plans.
Enlist the help of other business owners during the process if you can to understand how their plans helped them and what to avoid.
3. Fund your business
Every business needs capital to get started. Your business plan’s financial section should provide a clear idea of the capital you need to launch. Most businesses rely on multiple financial sources, including:
SBA loans can be a good option. For example, Huntington Lift Local Business is a small-business lending program focused on serving minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. Huntington is a top SBA 7(a) lender that has developed creative lending options and other features to help bring relief, recovery and growth to small businesses across the Midwest.
With Huntington's program, businesses can secure SBA-guaranteed loans from $1,000 and up to $150,000 with:
“The economic uncertainty sparked by the pandemic has highlighted the need for increased financial opportunity for everyone starting or sustaining their small businesses,” said Huntington’s SBA program director, Maggie Ference. “Everyone deserves a shot at success, and our program delivers a new solution to customers when they need it most, whether for a startup or an established business looking to grow.”
4. Develop a marketing plan
Creating a brand identity and communicating it well is crucial to success. Consider hiring or contracting marketing services to help you choose your business name, create a logo, build your website and develop a strategic marketing plan to get the word out about your business.
5. Take care of business
Dotting the Is and crossing the Ts is necessary for any business. Details include choosing your business location and registering your business, applying for all the required licenses and permits, including federal and state tax IDs — plus opening your business bank account. Also, consulting an accountant with experience helping small businesses can ensure you have your business and financial ducks in a row.
Starting a small business is a daunting challenge, but it can also be a rewarding opportunity. Taking the time to fully explore and utilize all the resources at your disposal can help ensure that your new business will be a success.
Opening up a small business can be an exciting endeavor, but it comes with some challenges. Most of the time, your business is going to be competing with others in the same sector, so it’s important to know what to do to make your business stand out. You want to do everything you can to help your business survive and grow. Modernizing your small business is essential in order to be competitive and stay relevant in a market that’s changing rapidly. Here are some ideas to help you be successful!
Create an Online Presence
An online presence is essential to any modern business. If you don’t have an online presence, or if you haven’t updated it in a while, it’s time to make some changes. There are several ways you can build your online presence. The easiest, most cost-effective way is to be active on social media. Social media is a fabulous tool for small businesses because it can reach a wide range of customers, and you can tailor your advertisements to your specific target market. You should also build a website for your business, if you haven’t done so already. After you’ve created your website and social media accounts, make sure you stay active and consistently upload relevant, useful, and engaging content that promotes your business.
Get an App
Building an app for your business is a great way to modernize your small business. Most major companies are utilizing this tool to help them generate additional sales and enhance the experience of their customers. Investing in an app for your business will encourage repeat orders from customers on the go, since most of them already carry mobile devices. Apps also reduce the cost of marketing, so building an app can save you money in the long run. Additionally, building an app will help customers see the best face of your business on their phones, since many websites aren’t compatible with mobile devices.
Data is a priceless resource to help your business grow in a modern world. Data will provide you with the information you need to make the best decisions for your business. It can help you get to know your customers, as well as your competition, and set smart goals for the future of your business. Data will help you track the success of your marketing campaigns, the satisfaction of your customers, and the success of your sales.
There are several simple ways that you can start using data in your business. You can use surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, and direct observation. Using these methods will provide you with the quantitative and qualitative data that can help your business thrive.
Improve Marketing Strategies
It’s difficult to thrive in a modern business world if you’re using ancient marketing strategies. Posting flyers on bulletin boards used to be an effective marketing strategy, but now is the time to start marketing to a modern audience. You can improve your current marketing strategies through launching a relevant email marketing campaign that is personalized to your target market. You can improve your marketing strategies through making advertisements that are more clearly on-brand than the ones you’ve used in the past. You can also improve your marketing strategies through implementing more effective customer loyalty and referral programs.
A POS (point of sale) system is the place where a customer pays for products or services at your store. Upgrading your POS system is essential to thriving as a small business in a modern world. A POS system can improve profitability for your brick and mortar retail location. It will help your operations run smoothly as well as help you gather critical data that can grow your business. You can use it to collect important information such as customer data, inventory level, and the best times to order more supplies.
Many retailers haven’t upgraded their POS systems because they’re overwhelmed by the new technology. However, the benefits of upgrading your system should outweigh your fears of learning something new. Taking the leap to upgrade to a modern POS system could be just the thing your business needs.
Rebranding is a great way to infuse your business with some fresh energy for modern times. Change is essential for every successful business. The first step in rebranding is shifting your mindset to embrace innovation and welcome change. You should then evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your business, and clearly identify areas you can improve in your business. As you evaluate your weaknesses, you will be prepared to make bold new changes for your company. Don’t be afraid to make changes in your staff, your design, your marketing strategies, or your business plan.
After you’ve made some changes for your brand, monitor their success carefully through data and analysis. This will help you stay aware of the status of your business and active in its growth.
Invest in Professional Photography and Videography
One of the biggest signs of an outdated business is outdated pictures (or even a lack of any pictures at all!). Investing in professional photography and videography is one of the best things you can do to modernize your business. Quality photography and videography will help people find you and help them form a good impression of your business. Additionally, if you invest in professional photography and videography for your marketing campaigns, you can prime your customers to form good opinions of your products before they even experience them. It helps to build your brand and attract new customers.
Modernize Your Physical Storefront
In addition to modernizing your small business through technology upgrades, you should take steps to modernize your physical storefront. Is your brick-and-mortar looking or feeling old and tired? If so, it’s probably time to invest in some updates. Your physical storefront should be on-brand, innovative, attractive, and inviting. There are ways that you can show your personality in your workplace while being professional and aesthetically visually appealing.
Integrate Your Physical and E-Commerce Storefronts
After you’ve put significant time and energy into updating both your physical and e-commerce storefronts, it’s time to integrate them so they can work together for your business. You can integrate the physical and digital aspects of your business through offering options like in-store pickup. This strategy is helpful because it will increase your visibility in both arenas of your business. It will also help your customer base grow as your online customers experience your physical location and your in-person customers discover the convenience of your e-commerce store.
If you’re ready to give your business the boost it needs to thrive in a modern world, trying some of these ideas is a great way to start. You want to give your business the best chance you can to thrive in a changing environment. As you embrace change, your business will see success.
Read this next for more tips: Take Your Small Business to the Next Level with Smart Marketing
How can you achieve success for your small business? One way: Marketing. Finding effective, easy-to-execute marketing strategies can boost your business by helping you engage your customers while attracting new ones.
Here are five ways to help grow your business by boosting awareness among the locals, getting your small business more known in your neighborhood - and increasing sales in the process.
Expert Advice for Entrepreneurs from Google for the Christmas Season (and Really, for Anytime of Year!)!
(BPT) - Small businesses have a major impact on their communities: 67 cents of every dollar spent on small businesses stays in the local economy. But when it comes to growing their businesses, nearly one in four small business owners say marketing is one of their biggest challenges. As small businesses prepare for the holiday rush, they are investing in digital marketing to reach new customers and stand out online.
Below are a few easy, effective ways to grow your business during this busy time of year from Kim Spalding, global product director for small business ads, Google:
1. Be discovered and build a website
People are increasingly searching for small businesses. In 2019, search interest in “mom and pop shops” hit a three-year high.
To make sure holiday shoppers are finding your business, Google My Business is a free and easy way to help businesses show up in Search and Maps. Businesses can attract customers by creating a profile where they can update their store information (like their holiday hours), create free posts that promote a special holiday offer or event and reply to reviews. Platforms like Wix and WordPress also offer free accounts that help small business owners build mobile-optimized and budget-friendly websites.
Once you have a website, adding a basic map or store locator can help customers more easily find your store by showing them your store’s location on a map and giving directions.
2. Make it easier to sell online
Ensuring customers’ online holiday shopping experience is easy and seamless is critical. Shopify is a complete commerce platform that lets you start, grow and manage a business. Shopify enables you to sell in multiple places including web, mobile, social media, online, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar locations and pop-up shops.
3. Reach more customers
Small business owners have a lot on their plates — especially during the holiday months — and finding the time to create engaging content can feel impossible. Hiring a copywriter from services like Fiverr frees up time for small business owners to focus on running their businesses while expert freelancers draft copy to attract customers.
A simple way to reach customers quickly, Smart Campaigns, created specifically for small business owners, takes 15 minutes to set up, and can help small businesses create and optimize ads to attract customers to their website or Maps. Smart Campaigns saves small business owners time by optimizing their budget across Google Ads to deliver the results they crave.
Expanded Local Campaigns can help businesses increase foot traffic by surfacing Promoted Pins that appear on the map when users are getting directions and planning their route to a destination.
4. Get a customized online business plan
Even though most business owners know their customers are on the web, 80 percent still aren’t making the most of digital tools that can help them reach more customers and work more efficiently.
Google for Small Business is a free, one-stop shop to help small businesses simplify how they select and use the online tools that can help them reach more holiday customers and work more efficiently. First, business owners input their business name, answer a few questions about their business and select a goal. Then, they receive a step-by-step, personalized plan of recommended products to help them stand out online.
Growth for small businesses isn’t always about doing more, it’s about getting things done in less time, with less complication and less worry. This holiday season, these tools can help businesses thrive by providing the support needed to connect with more customers and meet goals.
How can you leverage technological advances to help your SMB be more innovative and competitive? Here are trends affecting small businesses to watch when evaluating what technologies to adopt.
(BPT) - Whatever your small or medium-sized business (SMB), chances are you’re dependent on increasingly advanced technology — or wish to use more sophisticated technology. Recent advances have been numerous and head-spinning, sometimes making it hard to keep up. The truth is, harnessing emerging technologies effectively may be exactly what takes your business to the next level, ensuring success in today’s rapidly evolving, competitive business landscape. If you aren't using one of these emerging technologies in your business yet, it's likely that your business would benefit from doing so in the near future.
How can you leverage technological advances to help your SMB be more innovative and competitive? Here are trends affecting small businesses to watch when evaluating what technologies to adopt.
With cloud computing, small-business owners can implement sophisticated software using software as a service (SaaS) or desktop as a service (DaaS) models. The advantage of these models is that they update and maintain applications, eliminating the need for on-site servers or purchasing multiple copies of software. This can help reduce costs and increase efficiency. The DaaS model also stores, helps secure and backs up user data. Additionally, cloud computing means never having to worry about software updates. According to a survey by Garner, 63% of SMBs already use cloud computing. To maximize the benefits of cloud computing, you’ll want to have up-to-date PCs and computing devices.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Software that uses AI — or more specifically, machine learning — collects data from tasks, eventually “learning” how to do those tasks more quickly and accurately. AI can thus help your business save time and money by automating certain repetitive, manual tasks that take up too much of your employees’ time. According to a Harris Poll survey conducted for Salesforce, an average of 23% of an SMB team’s day is spent manually inputting data.
Just how popular is AI becoming? Apparently 62% of SMBs are already using technology to automate some processes. And what kinds of AI are they using? Many use tools like Microsoft’s Cortana or Amazon’s Alexa for scheduling and planning, chatbot to analyze customer questions, RPA Express to automate data entry or Salesforce Einstein to analyze data or identify leads — to name just a few. For SMBs wanting to benefit from these technologies, running them on PCs equipped with powerful processors and memory helps ensure they can handle the increased demands on their computing power, such as modern PCs and computing devices powered by the latest Intel(R) Core(TM) processors.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Devices and objects are increasingly interconnected: phones, HVAC systems, security systems, cars and more. To use multiple apps making all those connections, plus tracking products through the supply chain, you may need to upgrade to computers with more powerful processors or more memory (RAM) to help your company use its software more effectively. Perhaps not surprisingly, 78% of growing small businesses already report using more than one business application, while 30% use more than five.
The ability for employees to work remotely has become essential, not just for employee well-being and productivity, but for connecting at client offices, satellite venues or while traveling. The effective processing power, speed and longer battery life of modern laptops provide employees with flexibility that helps them — and your business — thrive. Today’s notebooks, thin-and-lights and 2-in-1s are available with more powerful processors, more RAM and more solid-state storage than previous generations of computers. And today’s portable technology can handle cloud-based apps, making them more flexible than ever.
Because SMBs don’t have the large IT staff and security budgets of bigger companies, they can be tempting targets for cybercriminals. In a 2018 Cyber Risk Report by Hiscox, 44% of SMBs reported suffering a cyberattack in the previous year, and 52% of those businesses had been attacked more than once. In addition, SMBs still using Windows 7 may be at risk when Microsoft plans to stop providing updates and support for Windows 7.11 after Jan. 14, 2020.
Here are some ways you can help improve the cybersecurity of your business:
Be ready for 2020
Whatever your 2020 goals, it’s a good idea to think strategically about technology that could take your business to the next level. Outdated hardware can affect your SMB’s bottom line, so make updating your PCs part of your technology plan this year.
To learn more about options for updating your technology, visit Intel.com/smallbusiness.
 Gartner survey conducted April-May 2017, among 699 U.S.-based SMBs with over 10 employees and annual revenue less than $100 million. The survey excluded nonprofit organizations. Qualified respondents are decision-makers or have significant influence on decisions related to purchasing technologies for their organization. Source: Gartner’s Top Technology Trends for SMBs Survey, cited by Capterra.
 Harris Poll online survey conducted on behalf of Salesforce, Sept. 1–13 2017, among 490 small and medium-sized U.S. business owners and leaders 18 years of age or older, with 2–199 employees. Data points were weighted by number of employees to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population. Source: Salesforce: Small & Medium Business Trends Report.
 2018 Hiscox Small Business Cyber Risk Report(TM) focuses on responses of U.S. small businesses surveyed as part of the Hiscox Cyber Readiness Report 2018(TM) released Feb. 7, 2018. Hiscox commissioned Forrester Consulting to assess organizations’ cyber readiness. In total, 4,103 professionals responsible for their organization’s cybersecurity strategy were contacted (1,000 plus each from the U.K., U.S. and Germany, and 500 each from Spain and the Netherlands). Drawn from a representative sample of organizations by size and sector, these are men and women on the front line of the business battle against cybercrime. While all are involved to a greater or lesser extent in their organization’s cybersecurity effort, over 30% make the final decision on how their business should respond. Respondents completed the online survey between Oct. 12-Nov. 10, 2017. Source: 2018 Hiscox Small Business Cyber Risk Report.
Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others.
Microsoft, Windows, and the Windows logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
Intel, the Intel logo, and other Intel marks are trademarks of Intel Corporation or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and/or other countries.
(C) Intel Corporation.
Innovations in technology that have allowed the person to try their hand in business have also provided a plethora of opportunities for helping a business to succeed. Today, industries of all kinds rely on technology to maintain a streamlined service for their employees and customers. But is technology that important to business? The following list details some of the ways tech can be utilized to enhance the day-to-day operations of a business.
If you run a retail business, nothing can cost you as much in both your budget and sales than an unorganized inventory system. Thus, one of the most important features a retail business must have is a high tech point-of-sale system. According to Celerant Technology, learning how to use a retail POS is an important investment that can transform your business, so it's essential to utilize all the features available to you. These POS systems allow you to have a detailed and live report on your inventory. Consider introducing training for your employees to use this system as they will probably be the ones interacting with it the most.
Communication Tools and Apps
Communication apps and tools have saved thousands of businesses over the years. This is because information is a highly valued asset in business. Communication tools, such as Facebook Messenger and Instagram, can allow your company to take advantage of minute-to-minute opportunities. Also, video communication tools like FaceTime have provided small business owners the ability to negotiate via the internet with their clients or potential vendors. This alone has provided countless opportunities to less-established businesses, which, according to BroadVision, are opportunities that would not have been there if it weren't for these communication tools and apps.
Often, it is not the lack of marketing or sales that bring down a business, but the lack of accuracy within its financial records. Your own lack of organization can easily create issues with your local county or even the IRS. There are currently hundreds of financial software tools out there that have saved businesses from going through these ordeals. They often provide you with notifications dealing with your taxes and updates on changes to the law that could affect you.
Technology is not something people should fear as a tool that can steal jobs. It can supplement and enhance your team's efforts, opening the doors to a business' growth. Simply follow the list above to begin implementing these technology tools and suggestions into your own business.
(BPT) - If there’s one thing that keeps small business owners up at night, it’s cash flow problems. Without solid cash flow, businesses can lose employees and suppliers, and watch as their normal business operations fall apart. When small businesses run into these issues, they often struggle to find a way out, making cash flow problems feel like quicksand. Thankfully, it is possible to pull yourself to safety. Here are just some of the ways small business owners can adapt their business practices and overcome the nightmare of poor cash flow.
Rethink your invoices
If you’re not sending invoices out as soon as possible, start right now. It’s simply the only way to get paid. But beyond that, you may consider changing your invoice policies to encourage timely payments from your customers. You can offer a small discount if they pay before the agreed-upon term, charge a late penalty or consider invoice factoring or financing. Whatever you do, keep on top of your invoices because they’re ultimately the key to solving any cash flow problem.
Take stock of your tech
Your technology investments were supposed to improve operations and drive efficiencies to save you money. But did they? Consider taking stock of your existing technology infrastructure. You may find hidden, costly issues that hinder your ability to maintain solid cash flow. For example, if you invested in an ecommerce site but it has poor UX design and doesn’t accept popular payment options like PayPal and Apple Pay, you’re leaving money on the table.
If you’re not a tech expert, it’s critical you have a technology partner that you can count on to give sound advice. Dell Small Business advisors can provide insight into the latest advancements and help guide your decisions to improve both your operations and your cash flow.
Upgrade your accounting software
If you’re using outdated accounting software, you may be turning a blind eye to potential cash flow problems. Newer accounting systems come with advanced monitoring capabilities, can automate invoices and generate cash flow reports. These reports provide insights into your cash inflow and outflow, so you can quickly identify and resolve cash flow problems. The best method to take charge of your company’s financial health is to have the best information available, and the simplest way to do that is with powerful accounting software.
Making long-term investments may be reckless for small businesses tight on cash. But there are other ways to make your money work for you while maintaining liquidity. For example, you can direct your accounts receivable payments to a high-interest savings account so you start earning interest immediately after your invoices are paid. You can then move money to an interest-earning checking account to pay for your regular expenses. You can also use money market accounts or certificates of deposit (CDs) to improve your cash position. The important thing is to change your investment mindset and find ways to maximize every dollar coming in and going out.
Optimism is an essential characteristic of any entrepreneur. But if you’re letting that optimism get in the way of sound business practices, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. For example, buying more inventory on the simple belief that you’ll hit your sales targets during the back-to-school season is a fool’s errand. Stop playing the “hope” game and go back to your data. Set realistic targets and expectations and build your cash flow strategy around that.
While cash flow issues can certainly be alarming, they can also be temporary. By taking these steps and developing a thoughtful approach to your inflow and outflow, you can resolve cash flow problems and strengthen the financial health of your business.
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